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Richt turns over play calling duties to assistant
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    ATLANTA — A couple of days before Georgia Tech faced its state rival, coach Mark Richt went to one of his assistants with a bold idea.
    Hey, Mike Bobo, it’s time for you to start calling plays.
    Richt revealed Sunday that he let his quarterback coach handle the play-calling duties in a 15-12 victory over then-No. 16 Georgia Tech, including the decisive drive in which Matthew Stafford threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Massaquoi with 1:45 remaining.
    Bobo also will run the offense in the Bulldogs’ bowl game, then Richt will decide whether he wants to make the change permanent.
    ‘‘I thought he did a real nice job,’’ Richt said. ‘‘I just felt like it was the right thing to do at the time. I’ve been thinking about it for a while.’’
    Richt had been calling the plays since he took over as Georgia’s coach in 2001, keeping the role that he had as Florida State’s offensive coordinator.
    But, when the Bulldogs struggled during a stretch of four losses in five games, some fans complained that Richt was stretched too thin and wondered if he should turn over the offense to someone else.
    As it turned out, Richt had been thinking the same thing. He already let Bobo call plays in the two-minute drill, and decided that Saturday’s regular-season finale was the right time to turn everything over to the former Georgia quarterback.
    ‘‘I actually didn’t give him a whole lot of warning,’’ Richt said. ‘‘I told him on Thursday and the rest of the staff on Friday.’’
    Still, the timing of the move was rather curious — and not only because it came at the end of the season. In the previous game, with Richt calling the plays, Georgia piled up a season-high 446 yards in a 37-15 upset of Auburn, which was ranked No. 5 at the time.
    But Richt decided that it was the best time to make a change, certainly better than turning the offense over to Bobo when the Bulldogs were struggling.
    ‘‘I didn’t want to hand something over to him when everything was so hot,’’ Richt said. ‘‘Quite frankly, if we had lost this game, I never would have even mentioned that Mike called the plays. I want to take care of my coaches.’’
    Richt first considered making the change after last season, but couldn’t bring himself to follow through. After all, the Bulldogs were coming off a Southeastern Conference championship and their fourth straight season in which they had at least 10 wins and finished in the Top 10.
    ‘‘Quite frankly, I came to the conclusion that I should do it,’’ Richt said. ‘‘But I kind of rationalized my way out of it. I just decided to go with the status quo. My gosh, we had just won 44 games in four years. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do. Until I had peace about it, I wasn’t going to do it.’’
    The deeply religious Richt said he finally felt comfortable making the move.
    ‘‘I pray every morning and I try to listen to what God has to say to me,’’ he said. ‘‘It just kind of hit me in the heart that it was something I needed to do.’’
    The 32-year-old Bobo played for the Bulldogs from 1994-97. He started at quarterback his final two seasons, setting a school record when he completed 19 straight passes in his final college game, a 33-6 victory over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
    He spent the next two years as an administrative assistant and graduate assistant for the Bulldogs, then joined the staff at Division I-AA Jacksonville State. He returned to Georgia one year later when Richt was hired as head coach and has been part of two SEC titles.
    Richt pointed out that Bobo is following the same path as his boss, who gradually took over the play-calling role at Florida State while working for Bobby Bowden.
    During Saturday’s game, Richt said he made a ‘‘couple of little suggestions between series’’ but never meddled in Bobo’s calls. That allowed the head coach to spend more time on other things.
    ‘‘It was strange for me,’’ Richt said. ‘‘I had a little bit more time to keep an eye on what was happening when the defense was on the field. ... I was able to talk with the players between series, get a little closer to the official’s ear every once in a while if I thought we were getting held or something like that.’’
    Richt hopes the change will have other benefits.
    ‘‘I want to be a better head coach,’’ he said. ‘‘I think this could possibly help me do that. I’ve been able to manage it pretty well, but I can definitely see the value of having a guy where that’s all he has to think about. He’s not going to get disrupted by a speaking engagement or by a crisis, the kind of responsibilities a head coach might have.’’